A Flash Fiction by Logan Cox
I’m enraptured the precise moment your fingers first touch the keys. It’s happened every time I’ve come into this place to write and focus, but I can’t seem to do either when you begin to play that infernal piano, so it’s really just two hours of pretending not to watch you.
I stayed longer than normal, just once. I waited until everyone had left the hotel bar.
I laughed to myself, that I’d come all the way to New York to find inspiration, and what I really ended up wanting to write about was you and your delicately applied but abundantly clear passion for your music. You, who existed in the hotel bar. I came all the way to the city, just to find what I needed in the hotel.
You didn’t have a name yet in my story, I didn’t even make one up for you in my head like I usually do. I became convinced that whatever fiction I came up with the satisfy my own curiosity would be utterly disappointing compared with the truth.
When the bar was finally empty, you started to pack up your sheet music. You saw me, and I almost made eye contact with you, but I managed to turn a page in my notebook instead. You froze, and made a different decision.
I tried not to breathe too noticeably, or do anything noticeable at all for that matter, as she sat back down.
She began to play a piece I recognized but could not name. I was never the musician that I wanted to be, but I could recognize beauty anywhere, because I was the writer I needed to be.
This piece had been played here before, every night I had been here, I was sure of it. Somehow, this was completely different. The way she rose and fell, chasing herself where she should pause. The ebb and flow, everything about her became less mechanical and turned emotional.
The music, it was inexplicable. What is the difference between classy and lovely? I have no qualms about my inability to define the separation, for I can always draw upon this memory to satisfy my mind when I ponder it.
The notes were the same. The piano was the same piano it had always been, but the woman, she was no longer a worker, she was who she wanted to be.
My shoulders tensed and my eyes would involuntarily shut when she reached forte, and my heart rate would slow again when the atmosphere calmed.
When the room fell silent and she departed from her platform, she began to walk towards me. I waited longer than normal to look up, I had to be sure she was really walking this way. When it was certain, I placed my glasses on the table and closed my notebook in preparation for conversation.
“Hi, did you enjoy my performance tonight?” She asked with a shaky voice, leaning backward timidly.
“Of course, everyone who came in seemed to love you. I heard many compliments.”
“Not that one,” she clarified, slowly. “The last one. For you.”
“That was for me?” I asked, acting as though I wasn’t here only for her.
“Yes,” she answered. “I noticed you stayed.”
“I did,” I confessed. “To be honest, you’ve been the best part about New York so far.”
“I’m sure that’s not true,” she deflected, smiling.
“It is,” I said, not forcefully, but truthfully, so she knew it wasn’t just a flattery.
“Thank you, really. You’re the only one that’s come here just for me. Most come to drink.”
“Unfortunate reality, working in a bar, even an elegant one.”
“I wanted to give you something,” she said, shuffling her papers. “Here.”
In my hands I held a well cared for binding of sheet music that bore the name of a composer I didn’t know and a piece I couldn’t read. I began to thank her politely before I read it, but as I leafed through, my words trailed off. I was reading her personal notes, clearly written in pencil.
His Favorite was written at the top, near the title.
She started to get nervous when she could tell I was reading her notes, even though she’d intended for me to do so.
Other notes like He jumps and He tries not to look up were written throughout, making me laugh out loud.
“I’m sorry, this is probably really creepy,” she apologized.
“No, of course not,” I said. “I’ve been writing about you for the past few nights anyway.”
“I thought maybe you were,” she told me.
We both laughed, finally feeling more at ease. When the silence returned, the tension came with it, though she was quick to break it once again.
“I wonder what we’d both be like, if we knew for a fact that we were watching each other,”
“New York is the perfect place to explore wonders,” I pointed out.
“Yes, I suppose it is.”
Logan Cox is a young writer currently living in the south of Spain. His work currently appears in the online journals Flash Fiction Magazine and Maudlin House, with forthcoming work set to appear in Beyond Words Literary Magazine. He can most often be found among his family, arguing the rules of in-home game show play.